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Union’s Magical Season Ends With State Playoff Loss to Imani Christian Academy

LEECHBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — The Union boys basketball team knew the odds were long.

Then again, the Golden Knights have been fighting the odds all season.

The law of averages caught up to Union on Tuesday night at Kiski Area High School in the form of Imani Christian Academy.

(Union lines up for the National Anthem before the start of the game against Imani Christian/photo by Shelly Atzeni)

The Saints jumped out to a 10-0 lead, were up 23-9 after one quarter and 70-37 after three quarters on the way to an 80-48 victory in the second round of the Class A playoffs.

“I am very proud of them,” said Union coach Eric Mortimer. “They never gave up. They could have quit, but they didn’t. They are a good bunch of kids, men.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

But not even 22 points from senior Payton Johnston could hold off the juggernaut that is Imani Christian.

The Saints had four players score in double figures, led by 24 from Dame Givner.

Virgil Hall, a 6-foot-9 forward, added 19. Alier Maluk, a 6-11 tower, added 13 and Avery Wesley 12 for Imani.

Dawson Camper added 10 for Union (15-13), which weathered a January slump to get hot at the right time in the postseason.

The Golden Knights pulled off two upsets in the District 9 playoffs before falling in the district title game to Elk County Catholic.

Then Union won its first state playoff game since 1974 with a rout of Turkeyfoot Valley on Friday.

“I am super proud of this team and what we have accomplished this season,” Johnston said. “No one thought we were gonna be where we were. We are just one bug family that’s got each other’s backs.”

Johnston and Skyler Roxbury were the only two seniors on the roster.

What Johnston will miss most has nothing to do with basketball.

“What I will remember the most from my career is the bus ride home after big wins and the run we put on during the district playoffs,” Johnston said. “Also winning a state playoff game for the first time in so many years.”


Josh Smith scored 13 points, but the Red Raiders couldn’t overcome a double-digit deficit throughout in bowing out of the Class A state playoffs.

Cameron County trailed 28-15 at the half and got as close as 39-29 heading into the fourth quarter, but Scotties held the Red Raiders off.

Matt Stanley led Union-New Castle with 23 points. Lucas Stanley pitched in 14 for the Scotties, who will play Carlynton in the quarterfinals on Friday.


The Crusaders led by as many as 13 in the second half, but the Cougars rallied to move on in the Class A state playoffs.

ECC was up 36-23 with a little more than five minutes remaining in the third quarter when the wheels fell off.

Carlynton outscored the Crusaders 26-8 the rest of the way.

Wil Wortman led ECC with 15 points.

Chase Jones paced Carlynton with 13 points.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.